Conditions + Treatments

Pancreatitis in Children

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Pancreatitis is a rare disease in which the pancreas—a large gland behind a child's stomach that plays a key role in digestion—becomes inflamed.

Boston Children's Hospital's Division of Endocrinology have teamed up with Harvard Medical School researchers to seek new treatment for disorders of the hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal glands, gonads and endocrine pancreas.

What is pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is a rare disease in which the pancreas—a large gland behind the stomach that plays a key role in digestion—becomes inflamed. When inflammation happens, digestive enzymes that normally help break down fats, proteins and carbohydrates attack the pancreas.

Children with severe cases may have bleeding into the gland, serious tissue damage, infection and cysts. Enzymes and toxins may enter the child's bloodstream and seriously injure her organs, such as the heart, lungs and kidney.

What causes pancreatitis?

  • Childhood pancreatitis is often the result of traumatic injury to the abdomen.

  • Sometimes, pancreatitis is related to the use of certain prescription drugs or the presence of excess fat in the blood (hyperlipidemia).

  • It is sometimes inherited.

In rare cases, pancreatitis results from infections, such as the mumps or mononucleosis.

What are some symptoms of pancreatitis?

  • severe pain in the upper abdomen
  • sometimes pain in the back or other areas
  • swollen and tender abdomen
  • nausea, vomiting
  • fever
  • increased pulse rate
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